The Southern Cross

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Sharing the legacy of our spiritual wealth

Opinion

This year the Plenary Council of the Australian Catholic Church will meet to discuss new directions for the Church. The Council assures us that it will rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us but the laity is invited to speak up and express any ideas the parishioners may have.

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The Council discussion papers have proposed that the Church will have to become ‘a Church that is poor and for the poor’.

There is some confusion about what is meant by ‘poor’. But let us hope it doesn’t mean ‘poor in performance’.

Does it mean ‘poor’ in ideas, or just plain ‘shabby poor’?

Will the new ‘poor Church’ dissolve into nothing but a sort of Catholic club of disgruntled people in a shed somewhere?

When the Holy Spirit comes to deliver his decision about our Church, will he have to wear his old clothes to show he is one of us?

Most Catholics still believe that our founder, Jesus Christ, gave us a rich legacy of spiritual wealth and many gifts – a glorious array of spiritual grace.

Should we blow it all on a ‘poor orgy’ or ‘being poor’?

The Council should be conscious of health care, earth care, schools, parish life, social security and marriage counselling. So how do we pay for this if we have no money?

A surprise addition to the ‘Council to-do-list’ is what they are calling clericalism. That means there are too many priests and bishops having too much to say about too many things.

I would say ‘not enough to say’. They are the workday voices and faces of the Church. What do you want them to be, silent poodles with white collars worn the wrong way around?

What about the empty canyons between the pulpit and the pews? They should echo with the voices of the priests and sounds of hope and action – instead of just resale, and repeated droning of old chapter and verse. Who is teaching preaching these days? Who is shouting for action?

Sometimes it sounds as if some silent order of monks has taken over the preaching duties. Is silence going to be the sound of the ‘new poor Church’?

The Plenary Council consultations expose a ‘resourcelessness’ regarding the role of women in the present day Church. They suggest the Council will be an opportunity to revitalise this age old topic, a wonderful opportunity for processing this thought.

Since the nuns circled their VW wagons and took off on the road to nowhere they have been sadly missing in Church life.

But the good news is the children they taught are playing a part in Australian life. We see them in top jobs in education, health, politics, armed forces and many more.

Let’s hope they will climb even higher and are identified as strong Catholic women.

The Council praises them for the vital and exciting role they are playing and have always played within the administration of the Church.

Women should be encouraged to play a big part in the Church and to let the light shine in on some dark places.

As I recently sat in our Reception room surrounded by ‘wheelies’ and wheelchairs, a youngish priest came in. The shining faces and bright old eyes showed how welcome he was. He moved around the room greeting individual residents, then moved the screen to put on his ‘work clothes’ – green and gold vestments.

He reverently kissed each vestment as he put them on over his trendy slacks and sneakers, as generations of priests have done over 2000 years – on battle fields, ships at sea, jungles, under old gum trees, in hospitals and in private sick rooms.

He brought lessons of the beauty and grace of the Catholic Church to the faces of the residents.

This lay voice suggests we should hang tenaciously to the good parts of our beloved Church, allow the trendy new thinking and simply adapt our Church to the changing world, just as Christ did in his time with us.

Let’s share in our inheritance and defend against the academic idea that poverty is good. It’s our Church, let’s go after it. Let’s make it an attractive and happy place to be. I don’t think the Holy Spirit will have any argument with that.

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